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02 November 2020

Growers, traders in dispute urged to contact Ombudsman

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell is encouraging growers and traders in disputes that fall under the Horticulture Code of Conduct to contact her office.

“The Horticulture Code is a mandatory code that aims to improve the clarity and transparency of trading arrangements between growers and traders,” Ms Carnell says.

“My office can provide growers and traders with information and assistance with dispute resolution, including access to mediation services and produce assessors.

“Mediation is a far more cost-effective and timely way to resolve disputes than taking legal action.   

“Our website also features a list of horticulture produce assessors who can help resolve a disagreement by investigating and reporting on matters linked to a horticulture produce agreement.

“Assessors can address issues such as whether a trader was entitled to reject produce or whether a grower has received the correct payment from the trader.

“Once an assessor is involved, all parties have to comply with the assessor’s reasonable requests and failure to do so can attract a penalty.

“At the end of the day we want to keep small businesses out of the courts, where let’s face it, the only winners are lawyers.

“The good news is that the majority of small business disputes my office assists with are resolved at mediation or before.

“Since my office opened four years ago, we have provided assistance to over 20,000 small businesses nation-wide. Two-out-of-three of those disputes were successfully resolved at mediation or prior to that through contact with our assistance team.

“We want to help small businesses resolve their disputes as quickly as possible so they can get on with what they do best – running their business.”

Small businesses that need information about the Horticulture Code or help with resolving a dispute that falls under the Code can visit www.asbfeo.gov.au or call the hotline 1300 650 460.

For more information on alternate dispute resolution, check out this video.